Skip Heitzig - Unashamed!
Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans chapter 1, Romans chapter 1? We're going to principally look at two verses from this chapter in this series. We call it Heart and Soul, An Expository Study in the Book of Romans. When I first became a believer, I really wanted to share my faith with my friends. The only problem was my friends. They weren't all excited about me talking to them about my experience with God.
And because I knew that to be true, I clammed up a bit. I was afraid. I thought that I could just display for them the message and that would be enough. So I had a bumper sticker on my truck. It was kind of a hippie bumper sticker. It said give Jesus a chance. Which doesn't really convey much of a message, it's like a chance to do what? And then I thought, well, I'll wear a t-shirt. So I had a tie dyed t-shirt. And this was not retro tie dyed. This was the real, original era of tie dye. And it had the name, the real one, it had the name Jesus on the front. So it was like tie dye t-shirt Jesus.
So I thought, well, that'll get their attention. And they'd look at it. And they'd go, it was either Jesus to them, or because I'm from Southern California, it was like, oh, they have my cousin's Jesus's name on the front, Chuy. So it didn't really do a whole lot in advancing the cause of the gospel. Or I thought I'll just invite them to a concert, maybe not tell them what kind of a concert, just it's really cool music. You'll love it. But I don't have to really say much more than that.
But I knew the time was coming when I actually had to open my mouth and share what I believed with people. So I distinctly remember the afternoon when I first tried this out. And I prayed that God would fill me with His spirit. And I just walked up to this coworker of mine who was the manager of the gas station where I worked. And I just started talking. And I was so petrified. I think I talked like this at first until I sort of got my bearings. And then I found that I had a little bit of boldness that just started rising up. I must have thought that God would be mad at me if I didn't talk. Instead of seeing the gospel as a treasure, I saw it as a task.
There's a great story about a famous violinist named Fritz Kreisler. He was Austrian. He would travel around and play his music. He was very renowned at the time. And in his travels, in one city, he came across an exquisite violin. And he thought, I must have that violin. He couldn't afford it. So he didn't buy it. He left to raise the money to buy the violin. Once he raised the money, he went back to the town, found the man who owned the violin, offered to buy it. But the man delivered the sad news that he had already sold the violin to a collector. Fritz was undeterred, found the collector, offered to pay the money. And the collector said, I cannot part with what he called my most prized possession, the violin.
Fritz Kreisler was disappointed. But as he turn to leave, he asked the collector, would you mind if I played the violin before it is consigned to eternal silence in your collection? Collector said, sure, what do I care? Have at it. So Kreisler took the violin, began to play such an inspiring song. The collector was so moved by what he heard, he said, I have no right to keep this to myself. It's yours. Take it into the world. And let the people hear it. That's our message. We have such a treasure. We need to let the people hear it. It's not a task. It's a treasure. It's more than a duty. It's sheer delight. It certainly was to Paul. We are looking at two verses in Romans chapter 1 verses 16 and 17. I have entitled this message Unashamed. And I am playing off the statement made by Paul in verse 16.
But let me read this verse with you, but let me go back, if you don't mind, to verse 13. I always like to get the context. Let me just tell you that Paul is writing this letter. He has some opening remarks. He tells them, I've heard about your faith. I'm planning to come and see you. I've tried to in the past. I wasn't able to. But I'm going to get there. Verse 13, he writes, now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you, but was hindered until now that I might have some fruit among you also just as among the other Gentiles. I am a debtor, both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for every one who believes for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written. The just shall live by faith. Boy, that's quite a statement. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It's quite a statement because think of all that Paul had been through up to this point. He had been snuck over a wall at Damascus. He had been stoned and left for dead at Lystra. He had been beaten up, arrested, and put in jail in Philippi.
He has been chased out of Thessalonica. He was laughed to scorn in Athens. He was nearly torn to pieces in Jerusalem all because he preached the gospel. After all of that, he goes, I can't wait to come to Rome and do it again. And you read that and go, are you nuts? Why was that? Well, all I can say is this guy is unstoppable. He was not intimidated by a single human being or situation, nobody. I both admire Paul and am convicted by him every time I read anything by Paul. He was such a singular unintimidated person. The religious leaders of Jerusalem did not intimidate him. The political rulers of Judea did not intimidate him. The intellectuals of Athens did not intimidate him. The caesars in Rome did not intimidate him. He goes, I'm not ashamed of the gospel.
Why is that? How could Paul be so eager to engage in the very exercise that got him jailed, beaten up, left for dead, scorned at over and over again? Why did he find such joy in it? I'm glad you asked that. I'm going to give you five reasons why Paul was not ashamed. He was not ashamed, first of all, because it's good news. Every time you read the word gospel in your mind, say, that means good news. That's what gospel means, good news. He said, I'm not ashamed of the good news about Jesus Christ. I mean, why be ashamed about good news, right? If it's good news, you're not ashamed of it.
Let's say, God forbid you had cancer, but it was successfully treated so much so that you saw the doctor, and he gave to you the good news that it was now in full remission, or if you lived in a country at war with another country. And the war had decimated your population. And fathers and sons were killed because of it. And then suddenly, one day you heard the good news. The war is over. Or let's say you had gone to the store a few weeks back. You had a little bit extra cash. And you just thought, I'll buy one lottery ticket. But then you heard the good news. Your number is the winning number. In any of those scenarios, do you go I'm not going to tell anybody? Are you kidding? You're going to tell everybody it's in remission. You're going to tell everybody the war is over. You're going to tell everyone you won the lottery. If it's good news, you're not ashamed by it.
Now some people read what we just read. And they think, well, just the very fact that Paul said I'm not ashamed of the gospel must have meant he may have been struggling with being ashamed or embarrassed of the gospel going to Rome. Why would that be? Well, let me give you a couple reasons. Think of going to Rome in the year 60 AD. This important city, its sheer size and glitz and pomp could be very intimidating.
You'd look around. And you'd think nobody needs to hear what I have to say here. They've got it all together. There's not a need in the world that they have. First time I ever visited Rome many years ago, it was overwhelming to me. It's this major European capital. There's antiquity there, history, archeology. You can see the Forum and the Colosseum.
And besides that, there's so many tourists from all over the world. After all, this is Rome. Shopping is out of control. The food is, you can't find a bad meal in that city. It's like it's illegal to have a bad meal. It was just sort of overwhelming. But 2000 years ago, Rome was much more than just another cool European capital.
It was the center of the universe. In Latin it was called Caput Mundi, head of the world, capital of the world, center of influence, the heart of civilization. It was in Rome that the Roman Senate would gather in the Forum and debate issues that would affect the world. People from all over the known world were interested on the news coming out of Rome because they knew it would affect them. So it would be easy to be intimidated by the sheer size and power of Rome.
Here's another reason. Not everyone saw the good news as good news. In fact, most people back then, like today, think it's bad news. Let me tell you why back then. The gospel was identified with a poor Jewish carpenter who got crucified. Where's the good news in that? The Romans didn't like the Jews. The Romans conquered the Jews. The Romans occupied Judea. And they invented or they took crucifixion and imposed crucifixion on the very worst of criminals who were notorious against the Roman Empire. That's who got crucified. So why put your faith in a dead Jew who was crucified? Where's the good news in that? Rome had great religions, great philosophies, great philosophers. Who needs this? Who cares about this gospel?
In fact, you may not know this, but the pagans in Rome referred to Christians by the word atheos, atheists. Isn't that interesting? You say, they called Christians atheists? Yeah, they called them atheists not because they rejected God, but because they rejected their gods.
See, Rome would be OK if you bring your Christian God into Rome, and it's one of the many gods and goddesses of the Roman pantheon, great. But these Christians were so exclusive and myopic and only worshipped the God who sent His son to die on a cross for them and rejected all other gods. Hence they were given the name atheists. Something else. Many in Rome called Christians cannibals because of a misunderstanding over the meaning of the Lord's Supper, its association with the body and blood of Christ.
So with those things in mind, you could see why somebody might be a little hesitant to preach the gospel in Rome. Truth be told, the gospel is unattractive and repulsive to a natural unsaved person. It's not good news at all. And it's still the same way today. And it's unattractive and repulsive because it exposes man's sin. It speaks about their lost condition. And so it strikes a blow to human pride and human ego.
And because it does that, people react to it adversely. They criticize it. They scorn it. They're angry with it. They show their contempt against it. They argue against it. And because they do, we Christians grow silent. We become embarrassed about our message, even though Paul says it's good news. And I think you'll agree that's probably the greatest roadblock to sharing our faith, being verbal about our faith. We're afraid.
It's fear. The Bible says, the fear of man brings the snare. I wish that I were able to honestly say along with Paul, I'm not ashamed of the gospel. I agree with it. I read it and go, yeah. But to be really honest, there have been times where I've just been flat afraid of being rejected by people. I don't want to be called unintellectual. I don't want people to go, oh, and get through all that reaction. It's tough to do that.
But it's such good news that if you can get a person just to hang with the message long enough to receive the Savior behind the message, they're going to live forever. They're going to be forgiven of their sins. They're going to have abundant life now. And they're going to have the promise of heaven forever. It's such good news in the long run. So Paul says, I'm not ashamed of good news.
A second reason why Paul says I'm unashamed is because not only is it good news, but it's God's power. Verse 16, I'm not ashamed of the good news of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation. Why be ashamed of power? Rome loved power. They boasted in power. They were conquerors. In fact, the Roman legions were considered the most powerful fighting force in the world at that time.
They had the best training. They had the best weaponry. And they would enforce social order by military power. Rome loved power. In fact, Rome was so powerful that when Caesar Augustus got a whim, you know, I think I'm going to take a census of the world, just making that statement caused whole populations to move, for people to leave where they lived and go register in their town of origin.
That's why Joseph and Mary did what they did because of that order by one man who was so powerful. And when that census was given, it revealed something interesting. It revealed there were 55 million people who were the subjects of Rome. That's power. Rome loved power. It was said that when the Roman emperor got moody or angry or agitated that kings and kingdoms trembled. It's like, uh-oh, Caesar's in a bad mood. Everybody got set on edge.
But with all that power, there was something missing. With all that power to show, they were powerless to save. You couldn't change one soul for eternity with all that Roman power. They were strong militarily. They were weak morally. One of the philosophers of Rome named Seneca said, "Rome is a cesspool of iniquity." One of its most famous poets, Juvenal, said, "Rome is a filthy sewer into which the dregs of the empire flood."
Well, no wonder then Paul said, I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed because I have the one message that can change people's lives. I have the one message that is the power of God to salvation. Rome might have its power. But they can't change a soul. The message that I bring can. I'm not ashamed of that.
You've got to keep in mind that Paul had a track record of seeing the gospel already change several cities that were considered wicked cities, like Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Antioch of Pisidia, on and on and on. He'd already seen it there. He's going, can't wait to let it loose in Rome.
It's power. In fact, notice the way it is written. I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power. Not it has the power, not it's a story about power, it is power. It in and of itself is powerful enough to accomplish God's purpose in a fallen world polluted by sin.
You see, the gospel was so powerful that it could change Saul of Tarsus, an enemy of Christianity, into Paul the Apostle. That's powerful. The gospel was so powerful, it could take 3,000 people in a single day, the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and change their minds, change their thinking, and say yes to Jesus.
It is so powerful that thousands responded during the first Great Awakening, and thousands more during the Second Great Awakening, and thousands more during the Welsh revival, and thousands more during the Moravian revivals. And it moved 2.2 million people to get up out of their seats and walk down onto different fields throughout the ministry of Dr. Billy Graham, who preached the simple gospel.
Over the years, I've seen the power of the gospel. I've seen, in my short ministry, wink, wink, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of lives changed because it is the power of God to salvation. It's powerful enough to convert scholars like Augustine Martin Luther, CS Lewis, the one-time atheist of all atheists Anthony Flew, Dr. Francis Collins, who headed the Human Genome Project, powerful enough to change entertainers like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, Brian Head Welch and a host of others.
I've seen it change murderers. I never forget the day I got a letter from a guy whose name I recognized. It was from a prison. It was from a guy named David Berkowitz. I go, David Berkowitz, I'm familiar with that name. That's back in the '60s. There was a guy named the Son of Sam. He was a mass murderer. He was a serial killer back in New York. That was him.
He's writing me saying, I listen to you every day on the radio. I've given my life to Christ. I'm in prison. I went to visit him and spent better part of the day with him in that prison in upstate New York and marveled at a man who said, I'll be here for the rest of my life. I deserve to be here. But I'm going to use my platform to share with other prisoners how to get to heaven.
Only God can do that. That's the power of the gospel. I've seen the gospel change very committed people steeped in religion. A few years ago, I got a phone call from a man in Idaho who said he had been one of the apostles of the Mormon church, but that he left the Mormon church recently because he'd been listening to our radio broadcasts every day driving, driving, and driving.
And one day, he decided I'm going to pull over. And he pulled over. And he thought I need to just personally encounter God. And he asked Jesus, the real Jesus, to come into his heart, the life-changing son of God to come into his life. And he was born again. That's the power of the gospel.
Not only is it power itself, the gospel message, but God promises power to those who speak it. Jesus said to his apostles you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the Earth.
So not only do you have this powerful message, but once you step forward and go, I'm going to speak it, God promises that he'll meet you there and give you the power to powerfully execute that message that is so powerful itself. So Paul says, I'm not ashamed of this. It is good news. And it is God's power.
There's a third reason why Paul is not ashamed. And that is because it's given freely. That gospel is freely given. Please notice in verse 16, I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It is the power of God to salvation for? What's the next word? You can talk here. It's for?
Everyone. He didn't say it's for the chosen people. That's me. It is available for everyone. It is freely given for everyone, for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek or the Gentile. Now I have to explain that because you're going to read that phrase throughout the book of Romans, Jew first and also the Greek or Gentile.
Whenever you read that, know that Paul is speaking chronologically, not exclusively, chronologically. It came to the Jew first. The gospel was promised through Jewish prophets, in Jewish scriptures, to a Jewish nation, with a Jewish context, about a Jewish messiah. But it's for the whole world. Paul is writing the same thing Jesus said to the woman at the well of Samaria when they were talking, having that little exchange.
And the woman was arguing about we believe this. You Jews believe that. Jesus said, listen. You don't even know what you worship. We know what we worship. And then he said this. For salvation is of the Jews. Salvation is of the Jews.
He didn't mean it's only of the Jews, solely of the Jews, exclusively of the Jews. He just meant it came to the Jews first. Chronologically, it came to the Jews first. The first believers were Jewish. The apostles were Jewish. The first church was Jewish. Came to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. Now the Jews divided the whole world up into two groups. Can you guess what those groups are? Group 1, the Jews. Group 2.
The non-Jews, the Gentiles, everybody else. There's the Jew. And there's everybody else. And if you're everybody else, you wish you could be a Jew. But you can't. In fact, the strict Jews believe God made all those other people just to make hell hotter. That was their phrase. It's to kindle the fires of hell. God created Gentiles just to make the fires of hell stoked up and hotter. Congratulations. God made you to make hell hot. So they divided the world by Jew and non-Jew.
The Greeks also divided the world up into two groups. Can you guess what those groups were? Greeks and non-Greeks, or their word, barbarians. You're either a Greek or you're a barbarian. Interesting word, the barbarian is a Greek term that is an onomatopoetic word.
That is, the word sounds like what it means. The Greeks loved their language and culture so much that to their ears, any other language to them just sounded like bar, bar, bar, bar, so hence the name barbarian. You're not cultured. You're not cool. You're not Greek.
So with that in mind, look at verse 14. I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. What Paul is saying is this. The gospel I preach is a non-discriminatory gospel. It is freely given. It's good for Greeks. And it's good for non-Greeks. It's good for Jews. It's good for Gentiles.
It's good for the high class. It's good for the hick. It's good for those who study Socrates. It's good if you can't even spell the word Socrates. It's good for the down and outer. It's good for the up and outer. Because if you're down and out or you're up and out, you're out still. And you need to get in. So the gospel is good. It is freely given to everyone who believes.
But don't you think it sounds strange in verse 14 when Paul says, I'm a debtor to both the Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and the un, what could he mean by that, I'm a debtor? Well, there's a couple of different ways you can get into debt. Number one, you can borrow money from somebody. When you do that, you're in debt to them.
Number two, you can be given money for someone. So for example, if I borrow $1,000 from you, I'm in debt to you until I pay you back. But let's say a friend of yours gives me $1,000 to give to you. I'm in debt to you until I deliver that money they gave to me to give to you. When Paul says I'm a debtor, he doesn't mean I borrowed a bunch of money from Rome and I better pay it back. He means Jesus gave me a treasure. And I'm in debt to those people till I deliver it to them.
It's pretty heavy, isn't it? What that must mean then is that if the gospel stops with us, it's a crime. It's a liability. We haven't paid the debt. On one hand, we're set free by Jesus. But the moment we're set free from sin and death by Jesus, we're also encumbered with a debt to deliver the message to other people who are bound on how they can be free. I'm a debtor both to Jews or to Greeks and to barbarians, wise and unwise. So Paul says, I'm not ashamed. This is good news. It's God's power. And it's given freely.
Fourth reason Paul says I'm not ashamed is because the gospel gets people right with God. It gets people right with God. Verse 17, for in it, that is in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith. Now this is the theme of the book if you remember from our first study.
The theme of Romans is the righteousness of God. Or better yet, the theme of Romans is how to get right with God. How to get right with God. How to make people right with God. Why be ashamed of making wrong people right with God? I'm not ashamed of that. I'll speak up and tell that.
Now what this implies, and you'll see it in the next few weeks, it implies that we're not right with God naturally. I know you hear people say, well, I'm cool. I'm good. God and I, we're OK. No, you're not. If you haven't, if you've just been born, and you've lived without anything, you're not right with God. You're not OK with God. And if you think you are, you just want to keep reading Romans because he's talking about the gospel here.
But the very next verse, verse 18, notice what it says. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. Uh-oh. What up? What up is Paul is saying, naturally, we're not OK with God. We're so bad off. And he concludes in Romans 3 with this thought. For there is none righteous, no not one. Not one, not one person is OK with God.
But then he comes full circle. And he brings this up again, the righteousness of God. I want you to just see it. I'm kind of reading ahead. But I want you to see it. Take just a second. Turn over to Romans 3, just a page or two, not hard. Romans chapter 3, verse 21.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe, for there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.
In other words, God can make anyone right with himself by conferring on them the status of righteousness. It's not something you produce. It's something you receive. You can't be right with God on your own. There's none righteous, no, not one. We've all fallen short of the glory of God. But God says, I've got a deal for you. I will give you a righteousness. You can't produce it. You can't manufacture it. But I'll give it to you.
So you just have to receive it. I want you to imagine it this way. Imagine a little box. And that's our world. We all live in this little box. And life inside the box is defined by two things, time and space. So those are our limitations. It's always a certain hour. We're always in a certain place. We cannot get out of time and space. We're in this box. We're confined in it.
But we have a gnawing feeling while we're in it that there may be or must be something greater than ourselves outside that box. Trouble is we can't get out to see. So somebody comes along and says, I'll invent something. I'll invent a story about what's outside the box. And throughout time, people have invented all sorts of stories. You could call them religions.
They go by different names, happy hunting grounds, the great spirit, the Elysian fields, crossing the river Styx like the Romans thought, Buddha, Allah, a number of different systems that people invent about who and what is outside the box. It's our way of escaping the time and space continuum. However, if I'm ever going to know what's outside that box, I'm never going to discover it on my own. Whatever or whoever is outside that box has to come in to that time space box and show himself.
That's the gospel. That's what God did. That's why Jesus was God incarnate. First of all, He wrote us a letter telling us He was coming. That's the Old Testament. I'm coming. I'm coming through the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Judah.
So he constantly promised it. Then Jesus came and He said, now you can look at God in human flesh. I didn't just write you a letter. I showed up in flesh. I am God in human flesh. And Jesus said, if you've seen me, you have seen the Father. I and the Father are one.
So Jesus came into our box, knows what it's like to be a human, and while He was here, paid a sacrifice on a cross so one day, we could leave this box and be forever in his presence. Paul said, I'm not ashamed to tell people how to get out of this box and get into his presence. I'm not ashamed of that.
I have a friend who is in Scotland. And he listens to my messages. He has for years. He listens to my messages at least six to 20 times each. He told me on the phone yesterday because he asked me to call him. He didn't want to call me. He said, it's too expensive for me. Would you call me? So I called him. And he's a bricklayer.
He's this rough and tumble guy, big, big, builder guy who had a rough background. Got all of his teeth kicked out in a bar fight before he was saved. So he wore dentures from like his late 20s onward. Came to Christ, still evangelizes to this day. And he said, Skip, I listen to you. I figure whatever is a couple of different series. And he goes, I've listened to them 22 times each.
I'm thinking, John, I'm thinking you need to get out more. There's a whole lot more of life than that. But he'll quote things back to me that I've said. I said, John, let me ask you a question because you're always sharing the gospel. You've been for 36 years.
Why are you not ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Because I was preparing for this message. And he says, I'll tell you why I'm not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. He said, I'm not ashamed of Christ because Christ wasn't ashamed to go to the cross for me. I said, that's good. I'm going to write that down.
So Paul said, I'm not ashamed. It's good news. It's God's power. It's given freely. And it gets people right. Now here's the fifth and final one as we close. I'm not ashamed of the gospel because it's so simple. It's greatly simplified.
Verse 17, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed, I love this word, from faith to faith. The idea, I think, is from faith to faith to faith to faith, your faith, my faith, faith passed down throughout history, just from faith to faith, as it is written the just, he's quoting the prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament, the just shall live by faith.
So it's so simple. What do you need to be saved to get this power of God? You need faith. Verse 16, I'm not ashamed of the gospel. It's the power of God to salvation for everyone who? You can talk here. Believes. Aren't you glad he didn't say it's for those who behave a certain way? Because that'd leave a lot of us out. No, God is not asking people to behave to be saved. He's asking people to believe to be saved. If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, says the book of Romans.
Now belief will change behavior. You're not saved by behavior. You're saved by belief. But if it's real belief, it'll change your behavior. You'll see works because of your faith. But here's the deal. It's not the faithfulness of Christians that saved them. It's their faith in Christ that saves them. Eternal life is a gift. It's not an earning. It's free. It's not a fee. It's received. It's not produced. It's not manufactured.
But not everybody will agree with that. This is just too simple for some folks. And that's why religion is such big business. As religion say, you've got to keep the 10 commandments. You've got to be baptized and go through confirmation and holy communion and last rites and a number of other things in order to get to heaven.
You see, people will accept that they're sinners. But they will not accept that they can't solve the problem themselves. Too easy, believe. Certainly, I've got to do something. That's human pride. When you say, really, you can't do anything because you could never do enough. And if you did all the good works in the world, you wouldn't make it up the rung one ladder, one rung to heaven. So you just say, too late. It's been done for me. I'm going to believe.
As we close, you need to understand that verse 17 is the verse that changed the life of a guy named Martin Luther. It is what sparked the great Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, at age 21, became an Augustinian monk in Erfurt, Germany. He was 21 years old. He became a monk, not to get close to God, but so he wouldn't go to hell. That's what he said.
He was just so burdened by guilt and sin that he became a monk. And he started going to confession, so much confession. He would spend hours confessing to priests, literally hours. I mean, he would think of a thought, and I, wait a minute, I just had another thought that's a bad thought. He would say every little trivial thing. And it drove the priest nuts. Till one priest finally said, go out and commit a sin worth confessing. And then I'll see you back here.
After that time and during that struggle, Martin Luther went to the city of Rome to see the great Vatican. And while he was there, he went to a famous landmark church. It is still there today. And you can see it. It's called St. John Lateran. In the Church of St. John Lateran, there's a series of steps, a staircase, called the Santa Scala, the sacred stairs, believed to be the very stairway that Jesus ascended when He stood before Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. How it got to Rome is a mystery.
So these sacred steps, people would, and still do, crawl up on their knees in agony, sometimes their knees bleeding as they crawl up these steps one step on another. And they pray and they crawl. And he had gone there and was going up these steps. It was believed that every step you crawl up, more years is shaved off purgatory and your eternal sentencing.
So he's crawling up these stairs one step at a time. And as he's crawling up, this phrase keeps coming to his mind. The just shall live by faith. Another step. The just shall live by faith. Oh, another step. The just shall live by faith. He stood up, turned around, walked down the stairs, walked out the church, went back to Germany, and thought, I'm going to study the book of Romans.
He started studying Romans. And he came to chapter 1 verse 17. The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, the just shall live by faith. You need to know what he said. He said, and I quote, "I greatly longed to understand Paul's epistle to the Romans. And nothing stood in the way but that one expression, the righteousness of God, because I took it to mean the righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous. Night and day, I pondered until I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon, I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise."
That day, Martin Luther was born again and knew that not the just lived by fear, but the just shall live by faith. And he rested in not the confession he could make, not crawling up stairs and hurting himself, but just by simply trusting Jesus' work was enough. The just shall live by faith.
Father, what a great message. What great news. What great power. In this simple message, it is good news, though some people see it as bad news. It is great power, though some people see it as a weakness to believe. It is given freely, though some people are trying to work to earn it. It makes us right with God, even though we're naturally born wrong with God. And it's so simple that if we just say, yes, I am not right with God, but I trust in what Jesus did for me, then we are in that instant of faith in trusting your finished work on the cross made righteous before the righteous holy God. Because Jesus died on a cross, He can be as Paul said both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ. Thank you for this great book, this magnum opus of the apostle. I just think back on all the lives that have changed throughout history, Martin Luther, Augustine, many, many, many others. Do your work deep in our lives through this book. And I pray this week, Lord, as we encounter co-workers and family and friends, give us the platform, Lord, however weak we may feel at the time, to be unashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. Whether Jew or Gentile, religious or not religious, wise or unwise, cultured or uneducated, it's good for all because Jesus died for all. It's in his name we pray. Amen.